The Catsitters: A Novel

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9780060194147: The Catsitters: A Novel

Suppose Bridget Jones had a twin brother? Meet Johnny Downs -- Half man, half mess.

Bartender by day, actor by night, Johnny Downs cheerfully floats through life, living alone with his jukebox and his cat. But he is about to discover that while he's been floating, he's been drifting downstream -- heading for disaster. Blindsided when his dazzler of a girlfriend dumps him like yesterday's news, Johnny is wounded, stunned, and, most of all, clueless. "You're like most men -- oblivious," says his friend and mysterious confidante Darlene Ryder, a Southern belle with a steel-trap mind and a mouth to match. Her diagnosis: Johnny is doomed to be rejected by every woman he desires as long as he clings to his outmoded bachelor ways. His footloose and fancy-free playing days are over. Now it's time to suit up and play the game of love for keeps. Darlene puts him on a rigorous crash course to rebrand himself as "husband material." But does Darlene really have his best interests at heart? Is it marriage she's steering him toward, or further catastrophe? And who are these catsitters that keep coming into his life?

At turns witty and poignant, The Catsitters is an adroit comedy of contemporary manners that wickedly renders the hapless foibles of an unmarried man on the canvas of modern urban life. It is also a bulletin from deep behind the lines of the dating scene that bares one of the most closely guarded male secrets: Behind the bluster and bluff of "guy talk," most men are looking for The Right One, too. They just don't know how to look, or where to ask for help; they don't have a Darlene. Men and women alike will wince, laugh, and identify with Wolcott's portrait of what it takes to survive and triumph in the gladiator arena of high-stakes romance. The good news is that you don't have to be ruthless to win. Nice guys can finish first.

From the acerbic and sometimes controversial Vanity Fair columnist comes a surprisingly sweet-toned and embracing debut novel about sex, masculinity, and the comedy-drama of everyday life. The Catsitters is a novel even James Wolcott could love.

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Review:

Pride and Prejudice meets Swingers, and Austen wins handily. It's hard to believe this mild-mannered novel was written by the same James Wolcott who produces such withering cultural commentary in the pages of Vanity Fair. Yet The Catsitters, while purporting to depict the cutthroat world of Manhattan dating, is ultimately a sweet-tempered example of the classic Austen plot. Which is to say, our hero searches high and low for true love, only to find that it was right under his nose all along.

That's right, our hero. Instead of an Emma or an Elizabeth, we get Johnny Downs, a beefy, almost-out-of-work actor who never scores the romantic lead in either life or theater. We also get his caustic friend Darlene, who runs his life over the phone from her hometown in Georgia. This long-distance kibitzer orchestrates Johnny's dates, moderates his behavior, and ultimately sabotages his most successful love affair. And what about the titular catsitters? They turn out to be a couple of Darlene's girlfriends, who come to New York to look after Johnny's cats for a weekend and don't bother to leave, further compounding his romantic problems.

Johnny is the kind of character who seems to move through wet cement; he's likable enough, but we keep wishing he'd get his act together. In the end, he does, to the reader's rudimentary satisfaction. Still, the book is most appealing when Wolcott forgets he's writing a novel and slips into critic mode. There are some happily acerbic lines skewering the theater. An actress in a period play, for example, speaks "as if she were christening a ship." A director greets the protagonist "with both hands extended palms-down, a Fellini-like greeting that directors ought to stop imitating." The depiction of the life of a New York actor is thick with realistic detail; the romance is pure make-believe. --Claire Dederer

About the Author:

Currently the cultural critic for Vanity Fair, James Wolcott has also been a staff writer at The Village Voice, Esquire, Harper's, and The New Yorker. He lives with his wife, Laura Jacobs, and their two cats, Roland and Jasper, in New York City.

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Wolcott, James
Published by HarperCollins, Scranton, Pennsylvania, U.S.A. (2001)
ISBN 10: 0060194146 ISBN 13: 9780060194147
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Book Description HarperCollins, Scranton, Pennsylvania, U.S.A., 2001. Hard Cover. Book Condition: New. Dust Jacket Condition: New. First Edition. Renowned for his barbed-wire wit, Vanity Fair literary critic James Wolcott turns his wicked eye on the vagaries of romance in this viciously funny debut novel about the ways men and women communicate and don't in the never-ending search for a soulmate. Johnny Downs is a man down on his luck. Dumped by a string of girlfriends, Johnny has just been given the boot again. Hurt, baffled, and most of all, clueless, Johnny enlists Darlene Rider, a sassy Southern belle with a Hannibal Lecter heart and tactical genius in the relationship game, to help him cast off his bachelor habits and rebrand himself as "husband material." What follows is a crash course in love and romance as only Darlene could teach it and James Wolcott could write it. Bookseller Inventory # 001359

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